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Dust if you must… a poem on the perils of housework.

Posted in Aging, Home & Decor, and Life & Love

This sweet poem was first published on September 15th 1998 in the 21st edition of The Lady (“in continuous publication since 1885 and widely respected as England’s longest running weekly magazine for women”).

‘Dust if you Must’ was written by Mrs Rose Milligan from Lancaster in Lancashire. Whose name we love too. It being a combination of the classic English bloom and that brilliant comedian, the most excellent Spike Milligan.

We discovered at Tidings and Things on tumblr. Where one of the comments read: “I know my house is perfectly kept when I can write ‘I love you’ with my fingertip in the dust on the furniture.”

A reminder, at the end of a long and dusty week: that not everything always needs to be in it’s place.

(Thanks for the introduction to our great and much loved pal: Mr Edward Clarke of Clapham, London.)

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  1. My 82 year old Dad sent me this poem today and I had a good little cry at the end of it. When I asked him where it came from he sent me here. Very happy to have come across your blog. Juliet

    August 17, 2017
    • Glad you stumbled across here! It’s actually one of the few places where you can find this poem on line which, by the way, arrived to us via a (male) friend who lives in London!

      August 18, 2017
      • Nice! Glad I stumbled too. Have a great evening. Juliet

        August 18, 2017
  2. Val du Toit
    Val du Toit

    Love the poems – love your blog!

    December 22, 2015
  3. I especially like the ending.
    Doesn’t matter how much you dust….in the end, when you die, you are just going to make more dust!

    September 9, 2015
  4. Bagshot Butterfly
    Bagshot Butterfly


    You are not judged by the places you’ve been
    The mountains you’ve climbed
    Nor the sunsets you’ve seen
    The stars you have counted
    The dolphins you’ve saved
    you are judged, right or wrong,
    On whether you’re clean.

    When I come round to yours
    I don’t want to sneeze
    Don’t want my inhaler to sort out my wheeze
    Dog hair in the dinner?
    Cat fur in the cream?
    You have to admit its a little obscene
    I think, yes I think, that it’s
    Better to clean…..

    So yes, dust you must
    (As you some day will be)
    But til then it’s better
    (Between you and me)
    To make sure you’re living

    Dust til you hurt
    Til your elbow gives out
    Out with the rubbish
    Off with the dirt
    Then look around
    It’s time for your dreams
    Knowing your place
    Lovely and clean.

    August 27, 2014
    • Oh Heavens No! How simply Obscene!
      To wax and polish till things are a-gleam!
      To break your small-bones, to crack ribs apart,
      While trying to dust that small bit on hearth!

      Just let it go! The dishes are done!
      Go play with the children, or smile at the sun!
      Laugh at the paper or practice a song,
      Don’t soak in astringent all day long!

      Do you recall Van Gogh for the way he smelled?
      Or even Ghandi for the way he held,
      A broom or a mop, a duster or rag,
      Or Sylvia Plath for the rugs she had?

      M’dear, my sweet, I think you should know,
      A soul is something we make, we sew,
      A long living art, judged so sweet,
      But not on the kind of house we keep.

      June 11, 2015
      • sofagirl

        Love it! Madam, you would be wasted with a broom.

        June 11, 2015
    • sofagirl

      The Poetess of the Perfect. See your the response below! We’re loving what you started. Duel!

      June 11, 2015
  5. Love this comment: “I know my house is perfectly kept when I can write ‘I love you’ with my fingertip in the dust on the furniture.” Awesome!

    July 21, 2014
  6. I totally agree.
    No need to dust too often, it is just going to come back anyway!

    July 3, 2014
  7. […] first site I came across is an excellent blog called Campari and Sofa who posted an amusing poem – Dust if you Must. This unserious poem by Rose Milligan suggests that […]

    December 17, 2013
  8. I’m the world’s worst duster. My mother always compared me to my sister and said she was the better duster and sweeper so I decided not to make a liar out of my mother ; – )

    August 29, 2013
  9. Reblogged this on Small Farm Future and commented:
    I love this poem. I’m not naturally a compulsive duster but I do find my need for order, is increasing as the years advance. Is this a response to the inevitable decay and decline ahead?

    May 20, 2013
    • As on holding decline at bay by keeping your surroundings neatly organized? An interesting thougth that affects me greatly, as my need for organization slides into ocd…

      May 20, 2013
      • Something like that. Fooling ourselves we’re in control (:
        Isn’t chaos a natural state which we just can’t bear.

        May 21, 2013
  10. Brilliant poem! I wholeheartedly agree. Although others who know me might way I’m using this poem to legitimise my current laziness.

    May 19, 2013

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